My friend, Linda, and I have been on so many road trips for writing retreats, attending books fairs and writing events in the last eleven or so years, that we have the preparation, planning, and execution of them down to a fine art.
This particular road trip, we are virtually attending When Words Collide as presenters, but it will be a fully literary trip, as we work on current projects, visit local libraries and bookstores, too. There will be day trips for exploring, watching wildlife and finding inspiration as always on the back roads.
We organize our trip, for the most part, in the same way each time. It is a tried and tested practice for us.
Road trip journal
Bird identification book.
Blankets, emergency kit, shovel, trolley.
Chargers, camera, sunglasses.
A bag for trash.
Plenty of water bottles.
In addition there are Sammie essentials:
Water and food bowls
A peaceful and beautiful location.
Options for where we can write – so a desk (or two) and two comfortable chairs, and a nice view.
Comfortable beds, ample lighting, space to spread out our things and a good shower.
A microwave, fridge and storage for food. Luckily, we both like the same foods.
And tea! (So there must be a kettle).
Notebooks and pens.
Current writing projects
Chargers, extension cord and power-bar (there are never enough power points).
New for this trip headphones with mic’s for the presentations.
How do you plan for a writing retreat and A road trip?
My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.
My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.
In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.
In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.
I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.
As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.
As we Albertan’s look forward to ‘proper’ Spring instead of ‘false Spring’, we look forward to embracing the warm weather to write outside and enjoy nature. It is not a pretty sight, with brown grass and slush but it will get better. Although, COVID still has us under restrictions, there are ways to enjoy the outdoors. We can drive to a lake or forest, even explore the Rocky Mountains. If you are like me and my friend, Linda, take the back roads and discover untouched parts of the province. Get away from the noise of the city or town, immerse yourself in the stillness and quiet. Here is where your writing Muse flourishes. It is a time when a new project or idea may come forth.
Indulge in people watching, notice how your mind and body react to the change of season. Learn to use emotional, social, and climatic insights and feelings to the benefit of your craft. It gives us an idea how weather can effect a character’s situation or show the passing of time.
How do the different seasons affect your writing?
In other news my ghost writing gig will start late April/early May so it gives me more time to complete the first book in my detective trilogy. I worked with my designer on the covers for the trilogy so that they are consistent and will ‘link’ together when all three books are laid down beside each other. It is always difficult not to share the cover of a new book, there is excitement and eagerness to show them off. I will have to curb that and keep them secret until launch days, apart from the normal teasers, of course.
When you are working on your book covers, how do you ensure your vision comes to life?
I have been very lucky to have access to several talented artists for my book covers through my writing group, Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and my publisher, Dream Write Publishing.
I have been taking advantage of our local Writer in Residence at my library with Zoom open mic meetings and special presentations. This is a great way to have an unbiased view of your current work, not only through the readings and subsequent feedback but also because you can send a sample of the manuscript to them for review. Each year the WIR’s are from different backgrounds and literary genre’s, but no matter what your genre (or theirs) this tool is well worth taking advantage of this free service then maybe you should.
What are you currently working on?
I have a presentation on blogging this Saturday. An Easter writing retreat to look forward to. And a ghost writing project lined up for late April/early May.
We all need to refresh our writing Muse, so this past Thanksgiving long weekend, I enjoyed two day road trips to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. The first was on Saturday and then again on Monday. Both trips were a discovery of back roads and nature. It was chilly and breezy but glorious colours of the season were enjoyed.
There was plenty of wildfowl, a friendly squirrel, a couple of muskrats and evidence of a busy beaver too.
Although, I did some research for my detective book series and compiled a file folder of research, I did not write. We all need downtime.
However, I may write a short story on the unusual sight of a beaver lodge with a satellite dish! It’s too good not to.
Inspiration does come from anywhere and everywhere.
I trust those who celebrate it enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here in Alberta we enjoyed a chilly and windy long weekend but every day without the ‘white stuff’ is a good day. So no complaining here.
We decided to enjoy nature this weekend and travelled on Saturday to Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. We walked the trail to the beach and kept to ourselves as there were families hosting outside Thanksgiving get togethers! Then , as always, took various back roads to explore.
The first trail off the beaten track was a game bird sanctuary and we found evidence of a busy beaver!
We also visited Kingman the Lutefisk capital of Alberta. Not knowing what lutefisk was we looked it up. A lutefisk is a Swedish delicacy. It is a dried stockfish (normally cod or ling) that has been brined in lye, soaked to remove the resulting caustic solution, and then steamed until it flakes. The end result looks and feels gelatinous. Traditionally, it is served with warm cream or butter sauce and enjoyed with copious amounts of beer. Not sure I will be sampling it though.
I completed a project on Sunday, I have been meaning to do. Updating the bathroom cabinet. I am pleased with the soft green and new handles – gone are the drab wood doors.
Having enjoyed Miquelon Lake so much on Saturday, we returned to walk around the lake. A brisk 45 minute walk but so worth it. We encountered a squirrel who calmly sat watching us and the dogs and never ran off.
Then it was homeward bound and an unusual sight. A beaver lodger with its own satellite dish! I kid you not. I need to write a little story about this. Which channels do you think they watch?